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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tau Codex Review: Ethereals & Aun'Va

Here's how bad Ethereals are, I had to go find the codex for all of their rules. If that's not a leading statement, I don't know what is! We'll take a look first at your basic run of the mill Ethereals then take a look at the special character for Tau in this vein, Aun'Va. First off, the Ethereal is going up against some stiff competition in the Commander, which is an army list requirement which will be reviewed later. So the Ethereal isn't 'that' bad for 50 pts, though it has an odd statline and wargear. With one of the highest WS and A levels in the whole Tau codex you almost think the Ethereal was designed for close combat. And the honor blade attempts to improve this by making the Ethereal S5...very confusing (Aun'shi from the previous book was a beast with that though =D). Otherwise the Ethereal still suffers like most Tau not in suits with poor I, S and T and with an average BS of 3.

The Ethereal is allowed to take an Honor Guard of FWs for 12pts a model who have BS4 but aren't scoring. Making a bad unit even more expensive, even with BS4 isn't great so we'll pass on that. Now if they were normal FW cost (assuming FW go down), still count as Troops and get the BS bonus, well there's certainly a possibility there, especially if the propose Drone Harbinger rules are put into place. Moving on. The inspiring presence rule of the Ethereal is why he isn't really 'that' bad. Making any unit he joins Fearless is pretty good for those pesky Crisis suits who love to run away and re-rolling morale checks within LoS? Golden. Shame the Tau army likes to have its major units hiding and the Devilfish being an enclosed transport...there really is no LoS when hiding him in a transport. Easily fixed though as seen below. Major problem with the Ethereal is his final rule: Price of Failure (I thought losing the battle was bad enough?). Forcing the whole Tau army to take an Ld test when they are already weak in terms of Ld when the Ethereal is killed, ya no thanks. But we get preferred enemy!? So what, Tau still suck in assault and PE isn't going to change that.

Aun'Va is a sort of "improved" and much more expensive combat version of the normal Ethereal through his bodyguards (T3(5) w/3A and Honor Blades x2) who have counter-attack. Ya? His Price of Failure is the ultimate level and all Tau units gain PE & Furious Charge, but still have to take that pesky army wide Ld not good. His inspiring presence counts units within LoS as stubborn which isn't as good as re-rolled morale. Tau don't care if they are Stubborn, they die in combat anyway. Aun'Va's special wargear gives him a perma-4+ cover save (which he can re-roll) and improves the toughness of he and his bodyguards. Basically...a waste of points. Aun'Va has a worse morale bubble effect than your normal Ethereal and is even more focused on close combat through his bodyguards. News flash: Tau hate combat!

So, how to fix these babies? Remember, they are competing with Crisis suit commanders who are...well good. Easiest thing to do is make Inspiring presence a 12" re-roll morale bubble which can be used inside a Devilfish. Drop the WS and A down and perhaps up the BS. Or perhaps something akin to 4th edition Force Commander's Rites of Battle. As long as the Ethereal is alive, all Tau units can use his Leadership. I think losing Ld10 on your army is a pretty big de-buff but to keep in the vein of the fluff, losing the Ethereal has to negatively impact on the Tau army somehow... Not sure about this. Even a turn of Rage is just too huge a de-buff and making the whole Tau army take an Ld test is asking for trouble. Perhaps -1 to Tau Ld for a full turn?

For Aun'Va basically keep with the vein of the Ethereal but buff him and drop him down a lot of points, just over 100. If the bubble for re-rolling morale was used I'd make Aun'Va 18" if not 24" and if the Rites of Battle was used, perhaps make Aun'Va's akin to Marneus Calagar's special rule atm? But that also allows Tau to choose to fail...too much flexibility. Perhaps if this were the case make Ethereals Ld9 and Aun'Va Ld10 and both have Inspiring Presence as the old Rites of Battle rule. Also drop the rule providing fearless to the unit they join. Thoughts on the keeping the Bodyguard? If it's scoring would be a better option, especially if given BS4 but with earlier Drone rules, this would most likely open the door for a cheap 4 ML Devilfish w/BS4 Makerlights so I think drop the Bodyguard idea overall and just use Independent Character status of the Ethereal to join and leave units. Aun'Va could have some other nifty special things but that's an area I don't trust my skills (special character development) so would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

I think Ethereals need to be seen as the "buffing" HQ for Tau and since Tau suffer from low Ld across the board (unless this is fixed) the most obvious buff is helping with morale. Whilst the current Ethereal does this, I think a bubble effect or special rule ala Rites of Battle is the better way to go but particularly reduce the negative effect. Screwing up the whole point of an army (shooting) isn't a negative, it's just plain bad game design. I personally could go without the whole 'negative' aspect but without major changes am happy with the -1Ld for a turn so would be interested to see your thoughts on that. Overall, the Ethereal needs some sort of buff though to compete with the Commander. As it stands now, the Ethereal isn't even a choice in comparison and is too much of liability for the Tau army.

2 pinkments:

Saint said...

Gareth is a legend :) xx

Raptor1313 said...

Now see, if an Ethereal did something like Rites of Battle at Ld10, I would actually field him.

I mean, as it is, the Crisis Suit Commander is a requirement, and lets you take more suits at a higher points level. Past that, it's honestly a localized lead buff; mine often hangs with the Broadsides to A) make sure a single drone loss doesn't force a morale check, and B) give them a ld buff when you DO lose a couple drones.

Basically, the Ethereal needs to DO something for me reliably, and not automatically lose the game for me when he dies.

Frankly, I think you can make an argument for pulling an Ethereal from the codex altogether (frankly, if he makes my guys lose the will to fight when he dies, maybe I'll never PUT HIM IN THE FIELD TO BEGIN WITH. Proper previous planning prevents piss-poor performance and all...). Doubt they wil, though, since there's a model for 'em.

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